March 22, 2022

Good morning, MindSite News readers. In today’s newsletter, we look at the extraordinary risk of Covid death among people with schizophrenia, which is prompting researchers to wonder: Is schizophrenia an immune condition? Also, Vox Media explores forgiveness. Ms. magazine talks to a Florida advocate about solutions to the school-to-prison pipeline for Black girls. Babies may not be able to verbalize it, but they remember traumatic experiences from a very early age. And more.

People with schizophrenia have a high risk of dying from Covid. Is it actually an immune condition?

Image: Shutterstock

After advanced age, schizophrenia is the second leading risk factor for dying of COVID-19. People diagnosed with the condition have a two-to-five-times greater risk of succumbing to the virus. According to this report from NPR, scientists have made discoveries that point to deficiencies within the immune system as the culprit, suggesting that schizophrenia is a disease of both the physical body and the mind.

“People’s initial reaction to this was one of disbelief,” remarked Katlyn Nemani, a researcher and neuropsychiatrist at New York University who has studied the connection. But, after controlling for the possibility that people with schizophrenia might have difficulty accessing health care and therefore be in worse health, Nemani’s findings came to the same conclusion. Even more notable is that researchers in nations with universal health care, including the United Kingdom, Denmark, Israel, and South Korea, replicated these findings.

Exploring forgiveness in America, with Vox Media

In a provocative new series, Vox is exploring America’s struggle to forgive. “By its very definition, forgiveness puts the burden on victims to figure out a path forward, to move on from the harm they endured,” Vox staff writes. “That conception of forgiveness is limiting.”

In one article, they explore the story of Delores White, a 67-year-old woman who had never been in trouble with the law, who was arrested and jailed in April 2020 for defending herself and her daughter against a domestic violence attack. White stabbed her daughter’s boyfriend one time, telling police she feared he would beat her to death. The boyfriend died during the attack and though unintentional, White was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, then released from prison more than a year later. Vox asks, in the title of the story: “When justice isn’t served, how do we find forgiveness?

Other articles explore the concepts of restorative justice, how to forgive someone who isn’t sorry, truth and reconciliation commissions that are often formed after genocide and war, and “a modern state of outrage” in which people constantly demand contrition but refuse absolution.

Florida nonprofit works to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline for Black girls

According to a recent study from the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, Black girls aged 10 to 17 in Florida make up just 21 percent of the state’s girl population, but 45 percent of all girls arrested. The disproportionate number of arrests is attributable to a number of factors including inequitable education and economic inequality, as well as life trauma including poverty, family instability, and physical and sexual abuse – which can lead to substance abuse and mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.

In a solutions-oriented conversation, Ms. magazine spoke with Mary Marx, CEO of the Pace Center for Girls, a Jacksonville-based nonprofit dedicated to building a more equitable future for all of Florida’s girls, especially Black girls at risk of entering the school-to-prison pipeline. Using a trauma-informed approach, Pace offers academic support, case management help and counseling and life-skills development courses to its girls, with a goal of empowering them toward a safer, more equitable future.

Yes, babies are affected by trauma too

Photo: Shutterstock

Equipping youth to recover from trauma may need to begin earlier than previously thought, as a growing body of research shows that infants are not too young to remember or be affected by traumatic events, the Washington Post reports. Infant mental health experts cited in the story found that babies and toddlers who experience events such as war, exposure to domestic violence, house fires, physical abuse and even community violence have higher rates of anxiety, depression, addiction, diabetes, and obesity. 

Tessa Chesher, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Oklahoma State University, told the paper: “It is easy to assume that babies don’t remember trauma because they express their experiences differently, [but] at [8 to 12] weeks of age, babies have stored enough memories that they start to anticipate their caregiver’s behavior based on previous behaviors. They start to respond based on the experiences they have had.”

Infant and toddler caregivers are critical to children’s recovery because they have a “co-regulating role” when it comes to how children respond to trauma and stress. Children who receive consistent protection, love, and security immediately following a traumatic event have less risk of developing trauma-related mental health conditions, says Regina Sullivan, a neuroscientist and professor of psychiatry at NYU Grossman School of Medicine of New York University. Caregivers, she said, may not be able to eliminate trauma in the environment, but they can create a “social buffer” that can “block neural activity in the amygdala, the brain area responsible for fear.”

In other news…

Postpartum anxiety and depression occurs in dads, too, according to new research from the University of Toronto covered in the student paper, The Varsity. For now, only new mothers in Ontario are screened for postpartum mental health challenges, but findings from new studies will help support interventions and help for new fathers, too. 

News 12 in the Bronx recently connected with 19-year-old app developer Katie Aran and her latest creation: Geia. Founded to combat teen suicide, Geia is a mobile app designed to help teens assess their own mental wellness and find resources that can aid them in getting help if they need it. It is slated to be released later this year.

Mitigate tantrums and power struggles in children by allowing them some power over their own choices, writes Berney Wilkinson, a licensed psychologist in a column published by The Ledger, a daily newspaper serving the Lakeland, Florida, area.

A Philadelphia couple aims to help children “turn climate anxiety into climate action” through a new picture book, Coco’s Fire. WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR station, spoke with authors Lena Champlin and Jeremy Wortzel. Aimed at children ages 6 to 10, it was written with support of the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry’s Climate Committee to accurately cover the science of climate change and help youth navigate the feelings and emotional reactions they develop in response to what they learn. 

If you or anyone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. And if you’re a veteran, press 1.

California to spend billions overhauling youth mental health

California Governor Gavin Newsom has allocated $4.4 billion in one-time funds to transform the state’s youth mental health system.

What’s Behind the Narcissism Obsession on TikTok?

Narcissism draws billions of page views on TikTok. What’s going on?

Federal Bill Would Boost Funding for 988 Mental Health Crisis Line

New federal legislation would provide funds to built out a mental health crisis response systems around the new 988 emergency hotline slated to start operating in July.

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Type of work:

Courtney Wise Randolph is a native Detroiter and freelance writer. She is the host of COVID Diaries: Stories of Resilience, a 2020 project between WDET and Documenting Detroit which won an Edward R. Murrow...